Concerto Conciso is a very sealed piece – to me anyway. The way that the end of the work simply throws you up on the beginning of the piece, like a fast vehicle tipping over on the sand, that seals it in. So I suppose it is in contrast to the piece I was writing before, Asyla, which is expansive, and which fills out larger and larger spaces. It must have been a strong semi-concious reaction then to produce something so centripetal. Also the sound of it – I wanted effects (vertigo, tense mass, a certain distance) usually achieved through an opulent sound, but absolutely without opulence.
I also wanted the work to start with a ride to the Abyss – like in the Damnation of Faust, which gives the listener a sense of being with Faust in the devil’s carriage being flown past a series of other musical objects, which are either moving at a slower rate or are stationary. Then in the Berlioz they arrive in Pandemonium (B major) and all the demons cheer as if it were a release. It was one of those things that happens that just as I got to the point where the clarinet enters something happened that meant everyone was talking about car crashes, tunnels and all that for weeks and weeks (it was the late summer of 1997). I can’t say now whether that very strange mood that hung around for a bit had an effect on this corner of Concerto Conciso. I don’t think so because I think the music came out as it had been going to anyway. I do remember considering substituting a horn for the baritone saxophone though.
Concerto Conciso…is a tour de force, a vertiginous ride through a wild, wonderful musical landscape. Much of the piano part is written for one hand, freeing the second to cue the other players, but Adès’s keyboard imagination is so fertile and his own piano playing so explosive that it never seems too thin…
First performed by BCMG conducted by Thomas Adès at the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham on 28 October 1997.